Dan Juster

Tikkun Ministries International
"... the character qualifications for elders are central and more important than the gifts and talents of the leader."

"A good experience in a weekly gathering is not a sufficient reason to join a congregation."
Read this article in French

Over the last several years, I have asserted what I take to be an axiomatic statement: If you are not part of building congregational community under an eldership, you are outside of the will of God. This could be due to rebellion to the revealed will of God, or it could be out of ignorance of the Word of God and the biblical norm to be part of a local expression of the congregation of Yeshua.

The form this community takes is flexible. It might be expressed in weekly gatherings with a preacher and worship team, or it could be expressed in a house congregation. It might be liturgical or free-form.

Those Not Interested

Sadly, I am finding many who cannot hear this word. One group that is not hearing is the young adults who see congregational life as largely irrelevant. Their sense is, "been there, done that". Perhaps they had a faulty or dysfunctional model of congregational life. Perhaps they were never discipled in the meaning and importance of congregational life. Some try a more emergent, edgy group; while others simply stop fellowshipping with believers. Either way they can easily lose their faith.

Those Disillusioned

There is a second group, some of whom are older believers who spent years in congregational life. They are now dropouts. I am watching some drop out in their later 50's and 60's. This often stems from dissatisfaction with leadership capability, along with disappointment in the lack of vibrancy and stability of congregational life. Sometimes it is a reaction to abuse from leaders. Unimpressive results lead to questioning a lifetime of commitment. This is taking place in Israel and elsewhere.

Patty and I have ministered to many people who came from abusive leadership situations. Thankfully some of them have received healing. We always ask one question in counseling them:

"Why did you submit yourself to this particular leader or leadership?"

Many reasons are given: teaching quality, worship, classes, youth programs, etc. Generally, people choose their congregation without really knowing the character qualifications of the leaders. Yet, in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, the character qualifications for elders are central and more important than the gifts and talents of the leader. When these qualifications are not maintained on a basic level then a crisis is likely.

We have sought to minister healing to people who left congregations due to two common leadership tragedies. One is a leader committing adultery. The other is a leader personally abusing by putting others down, losing his temper and engaging in manipulation and wrong control. The latter can also be expressed in a wrong doctrine of shepherding. Here members, attracted to a strong teaching gift, are told that they should not choose personal directions for their lives unless the leaders agree and confirm these decisions. In addition, congregants are told that the leader is the anointed of God and not to touch God's anointed1.

Standing Firm on Leadership Standards

The issue is that of a real eldership and deaconate that fulfills the basic standards of I Timothy 3 and Titus 1. The basic standards are:

"Above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, and see that his children obey him with proper respect. He must not be a novice or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders." (I Timothy 3:2-7)

First Peter 5 adds the gifting of being able to teach and shepherd the flock.

Some years ago when I was teaching at a leadership meeting on enforcing such standards, one leader stood up and said that if we required these standards, half the pastors would have to resign! I am not speaking of continual perfection in achieving these standards, but there should be a general and normal life pattern that does fulfill them. They are attainable. I responded at that meeting by saying that if half did resign, then people would be in larger congregations with qualified leaders. Out of such right order would come new leaders who were produced from a healthier context.

Avoiding Communities with Unqualified and Abusive Leaders

The issue I am dealing with here is the abuse of the people who are under unqualified leaders. Abusing the sheep is itself disqualifying. The answer to this problem is that leaders who do qualify should practically and verbally support godly standards in other leaders. We need to build a consensus and demand that we have godly leaders. We also need to promote a strong word that people should only join congregations with qualified leaders. Yet how can they know?

First, they should look for an accountable leader who is in mutual submission to a plurality of qualified leaders, both within "his" congregation and in other local congregations. In addition, it is good if local congregational leaders are in association with out-of-area leaders in a real accountability relationship.

Secondly, it is important to look beyond programs and meetings to ask who will testify that the leader really fulfills I Timothy 3 standards. If there is not a strong testimony by other respected leaders, then it is best to not join the congregation.

A healthy community under the leadership of truly qualified leaders is a wonderful thing. It greatly enriches us to have life together in such a community. Conversely, the pain from abusive leadership can be deep. Much healing may be needed. Each person needs to check his heart. We need to repent if we joined a congregation for the wrong reasons, setting up an idol by allowing something less important to supersede obeying the Bible's standards for leadership. A good experience in a weekly gathering is not a sufficient reason to join a congregation.

Let us hope and pray that in these last days, the Body of Believers will regain the higher standards for the sake of Yeshua, His Kingdom and all of God's people.

1 This was covered in an article that I wrote in the November 2013 issue.

By Daniel Juster
Dan Juster leads the overall ministry Tikkun International Donate to Tikkun International.
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15:15 29May14 AR -
Wonderful article! Thank you for truth spoken clearly and effectively. So grateful to be a part of a fellowship of believers, under the leadership our congregation has.

18:17 29May14 Erik Ronneberg -
I just applied this standard where I work. A new supervisor was chosen, failed leadership principles, and I was able to transfer to another department, after talking with a manager higher up about letting my yes be yes not working, so I have no choice but to let my no be no. I would recommend using this article as a grid to check where we are planted in all areas of life, military service, national service, family, and workplace, not only local church.

18:41 29May14 MM -
Leaders are often very charismatic. They are adored by congregants and leaders alike. Being gifted in teaching, praying and public popularity takes either a scandal or a legal and determined mined to expose wrong control, manipulation and abuse. Although the signs of 1 Timothy 3 are evident, is goes by unnoticed by even the leadership, often appointees influenced by the leader himself. Accountability towards respected leaders could even be a cover-up. Out-of area leaders have other priorities or worse, are in cahoots! The only way to assure accountability is by means of a headship of Jewish leaders such as yourself and the UMJC, which are authoritative and actively involved in communities. Finding a spiritual public protector these days is the challenge! A deceitful leader will otherwise always have the upper hand and pull the wool over the sheep's eyes. The Kingdom is suffocating under pretence. My vote, make them resign and build afresh. Does the UMJC assist and check on the congregations that subscribe to them? They should.

FollowingArticle(22:53 29May14 Joseph Berenger, I also believe that if people have a true conversion experience they will continue in the Lord even if others have failed. They will seek a fellowship with the leadership qualities that Daniel mentioned. I think most of us can point to someone or something that we could use as a reason to stop attending fellowship but there is one reason, YESHUA and His love for us that we can not turn away from. Romans 8:35-39)

01:53 30May14 Rittie Katz -
Clearly stated and true. Let's hope and pray that the younger generation will apply these principles and do better than we have. I agree with MM wholeheartedly.

02:47 30May14 Eva Haglund -
You write many good things. It is important with mature leaders and we need to be in good churches. A leader needs to love the Lord and have love and compassion and ought to be hospital. Today many think a church is just in a churchbuilding. 1 Cor.12 says we need each other as parts in a body not just in a building and Jesus as head. Many leaders talk but not all have love to people. We need mature leaders. God IS love and to be in a congregation is for me to have fellowship also and to have mature leaders who love Jesus, seek the Lord and understand importance of worship, the Word and who are interested to show practical love, care to the sheep. In Acts.2:46 they also met in the homes. Many were praying in Marys house in Acts 12:12. We need friendship with our Friend Jesus first - then friendship with each other. Love as a testimony to the world. John.17:21.'

09:30 30May14 Debbie Sundeen -
Excellent article, this should be mandatory reading for anyone looking to join a church.

06:13 01Jun14 Clark Gear -
looking at these character qualities, the chief seems to be in most evangelical circles, "the husband of one wife". Does this mean he can not be a bygamist or does this mean a man is disqualified from serving if he has been divorced? I see so much pride from those who have had the good fortune and good training to have escaped divorce toward those who with tears fought for and lost marriages though they were abandoned or the covenant broken through infidelity. Are these otherwise men of God now tainted or as I see do they carry the Scarlett D the rest of their congregational lives?

Paul in his letter to the congregation in Corinth lists a group of behaviors unworthy of the kingdom and reminded these they had once been such? The gospel I see preached very often is not one of setting free but labeling those who have had this life experience. God hates putting away not divorce, divorce as tragic as it is, is often far less grevious than the abuse and passive aggressive behavior one would find themself locked in without this God given option. Do know that Pastors have the worst credit? I have several friends in the banking and housing industries and they independently assert the same testimony. When I sold cars it was most difficult finding a bank that would loan to clergy because of their poor financial stewardship. My point is this is quite an exhaustive list of qualifications and to choose one that may not even be on the list is a mistake. I prefer how Paul and Barnabus were set apart in scripture. As men full of the Holy Ghost!

  -- Dr Juster replies: First, all of the qualifications are important and as you say, a bad reputation with the bank is very important too.

However, the issue of one wife is very debated. The old Anglicans held that this meant that one must be married to only one and that re-marriage can only come after the other spouse dies, even if they were at primary fault. Others have held that a widower must remain single. However, the majority has held that the criteria is a legitimate marriage which means that if there was a divorce, it had to be for biblical grounds for a legitimate marriage. This means that though there may be forgiveness and full fellowship, such a divorce is forever disqualifying. My questions is, can a person over years be proven again even after an illegitimate divorce. We tend to think not.

14:55 01Jun14 PR -
You are right on target and I am thankful that finally, someone is able to stand up and humbly assert truth. You've done this on more than a few occasions. Let's continue to pray that the body will become healthy and truly understand the importance of relationship within the body. Also, that we are ONE body!

00:33 02Jun14 Marie Rubino -
I'm not in a church anymore after years of trying to make it work. There's a lack of teaching, caring, friendliness, in essence "community". as a senior woman and alone, church has not provided a community sense for me. After being in a church for over 2 years, no one ever called when I wasn't there due to illness! The teaching is so shallow, and there is no place to minister without jealousy and control. I now do a home study for a few ladies. I'm sorry to say these things, but I hear these stories from others as well. I feel very disconnected but I can't continue business as usual in the organized churches anymore.

  -- Dr Juster replies: This is so common because the church has largely been acculturated and therefore does not build community. Much of it is just a matter of going to meetings. I have noticed this. However, if you find a church that has small groups that really build relationships and even may have a seniors group and ministry, you might find that there are many exceptional opportunities.

Also in this issue of the newsletter:
Daniel Juster's article in French: Choisir Quelle Communaute & Quels Leaders?
David: ISAIAH Zionist Prophet Interceding for the Nations
Eitan Shishkoff: Pioneers & Planters - Apostolic Restoration in Israel
Shavei Tzion: Counting the Omer - Lifting up our Youth
Asher Intrater: Exile and Redemption
Cody and Liat: Media Development at Revive Israel